Recently, my copy of Mathematica v.12 started reporting the error

An improperly formatted directive with head Times was encountered.

on startup.

pop-up error message This error also shows up in the Messages window while working with random notebooks.

message box error list Does anyone know what the cause of such a message is? I tried to reinstall Mathematica but that didn't help. I work with a version for MacOS v. 10.15.1.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any code in this file FileNameJoin[{$UserBaseDirectory, "Kernel", "init.m"}]? $\endgroup$
    – Jason B.
    Dec 11, 2019 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ No, the file contains only a comment "(** User Mathematica initialization file **)" $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2019 at 10:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It could be some package or palette that you installed. Have you installed any? I suggest you click the ... button next to the message, choose Show Stack Trace, take a screenshot of that and include it in the question above. $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Dec 13, 2019 at 8:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Error messages only appear in the Message window and there is no ... symbol next to it. They generate every time I switch notebooks or swipe it. I have not installed any extra packages or palletes. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2019 at 21:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What does FileNames["*.*", FileNameJoin[{$UserBaseDirectory, "SystemFiles", "FrontEnd"}], 5] return? $\endgroup$
    – Carl Woll
    Dec 14, 2019 at 0:10

1 Answer 1


Following the advice of the Wolfram Technical Support I have performed a clean start of Mathematica. All the preferences and history were removed in the process but the problem was solved.


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